How to Get Rid of Smelly Climbing Shoes?

A lot of climbers don’t wear socks when they are climbing, so this results in their climbing shoes absorbing all the sweat caused because of climbing or when they are training. But not to worry! Smelly climbing shoes are more common than you think.

But not a lot of climbers have enough knowledge on how to get rid of smelly climbing shoes, which is terrible. There are several ways by which you can get rid of the smell, we have combined a list of 7 ways by which you can get rid of the disgusting stench. This is not just good for you but also good for the people who live with you.

Yes, there are a lot of ways the stench can be removed, but which is the best one? According to us, the best way to try to remove the smell from the climbing shoes is to wash your climbing shoes with detergent, put some detergent inside the shoes and let them sit in warm water for a whole day. The next day, you can also scrub your shoes if you want to. Then let them dry properly. 

There is another way you can control the smell. You can try getting a fish pedicure before two days of climbing. Yes, we recognize it looks ridiculous. But hear us out. Fish pedicure or fish spa is where you put your feet inside a tank filled with water and live Garra Rufa fish.

What Gurra Rufa fish does is that it eats the dead skin off your feet because of which the smell occurs. You can also try and use Boot Bananas which helps to absorb the sweat after a heavy climbing session. This will also prevent any other future stench. If you want, you can combine all the three methods and you won’t have to deal with climbing shoes that much. 

How to Get Rid of Smelly Climbing Shoes – 7 Tips

How To Get Rid Of Smelly Climbing Shoes

1. Detergent and Lukewarm Water

We all know that sweat-filled climbing shoes smell like rotten cheese. Regular washing detergent has done a magical job of covering that rotten cheese smell from your climbing shoes. This method is easy to use as you just have to pour about 1 tbsp of detergent inside the climbing shoes and sink them in a tub of lukewarm water for a day. 

Make sure you just use lukewarm water instead of hot water as it may shrink your shoes. If the smell is too much and you wish to scrub them, then you can but because of scrubbing some color of the shoes can rub off. After washing the shoes, you can dry them by keeping the shoes in the sun or by using a hairdryer in cold mode. This, as we said, is the best way to get rid of the smell. 

2. Antiseptic Sprays

You might have noticed that sometimes in a climbing gym, the gym staff spray rent shoes with something before and after they are used by someone. That spray is nothing but an antiseptic spray that helps in killing bacteria from the shoes and stops the growth of the bacteria. 

Several people rent the same shoes and leave their sweaty residue behind. So, a good way of preventing the smell and bacteria from transferring further is to spray the climbing shoes with antiseptic sprays like Lysol. Most gyms do this but even if they don’t, you can always spray the shoes yourself. This is a great method but it is not that effective.

3. Machine Wash Your Shoes

This method works but you need to watch your step here. You can easily ruin your shoes, but there are several climbers who say this method is awesome. Before you put your shoes in the washer, make sure your shoes can be washed or else it will be a very expensive mistake. A lot of synthetic shoes are washable and they say it won’t be a problem.

We don’t personally recommend this as the risk of washing climbing shoes and ruining them is very high. But for a lot of climbers, it has worked. Try it with your old climbing shoes first before you directly wash your new and favorite climbing shoes. If the trial washing works, then only put your new shoes, what you should do is put your shoes on a low temperature in the washer and use a small amount of detergent without any other clothes.

4. Baking Soda

Baking soda is a traditional and effective way of removing the smelly odor from the climbing shoes. All you have to do is put about 2 tbsp of baking soda in the climbing shoes along with lukewarm water and scrub your shoes gently. 

But make sure that you are removing all the baking soda from the shoes as any residual of the baking soda can make your shoes slippery and slimy, which is something you definitely don’t want when you are climbing. 

Now let’s look at some ways by which the smell can be temporarily removed.

5. Use Boot Bananas

Banana boats are a fantastic invention created by a couple of South London. Unfortunately, they might not be available in places other than Europe or the UK. But there might be similar options available. Boot bananas are nothing but devices that contain deodorizing salts that are all-natural and it has minerals that will naturally absorb the moisture of your sweat from your climbing shoes. 

They have a great lifespan and can last up to 6-12 months and they are extremely effective. Just pop them inside your shoes when you aren’t using them and let the banana work its magic. Put the boot bananas after your climbing session and you won’t have to deal with smelly shoes. 

6. Activated Charcoal Shoe Inserts

The application is similar to Boot Bananas, use the activated charcoal and put them inside the climbing shoes. It will absorb the moisture and will remove the smell from your feet. One of the better brands for activated charcoal shoe inserts is the Brilliant Evolution Activated Charcoal bags.

This is because these bags are constructed from bamboo because of which the bag has high breathability and is gentle on the environment if you discard the bag after use. 

7. Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets are good but they don’t work that efficiently. But there are some climbers that swear by this method of getting rid of the smell. Drying sheets are nothing but sheets that try to reduce the static electricity of your clothes and thus make them soft when they are put in the dryer. 

This is because the sheet comes with an electronic conductive lubricant based layer to help soften the shoes and remove the smell. The company that sells these dryer sheets state they can make the clothes smell good as they are made from chemicals. 

How can you prevent your shoes from getting the smell again

1. Get a Fish Pedicure

As we said, you can get a fish pedicure or fish spa. This is done by using Garra Rufa fish that originates from Turkey. This fish has no teeth but they are used in foot pedicure as the fishes eat dead skin from under your toe. Because of this, you can avoid getting stinky feet in the future. 

There are a lot of bacteria in the dead skin, and when bacteria gets combined with sweat, the odour is produced. This is one of the best methods to prevent smelly feet. Get a fish pedicure two days before you are planning to climb and get rid of the smell. The fish pedicure lasts for up to a week. 

2. Put Your Shoes in the Freezer

Now that we know, the reason behind the smell is the bacteria. But the good news is that bacteria doesn’t grow in freezing temperatures. So, you can put your shoes in a bag, and yes, USE A BAG! Put it inside the freezer and stop the bacteria from growing and in turn the smell from coming. Now, keep in mind you can’t kill the bacteria, you can just stop them from growing. 

3. Climb with your socks on

Yea, we know a lot of climbers make fun of climbers who climb with their socks on. This is a great way to keep your feet comfortable and also rotten egg smell free. Now, some climbers might say that wearing socks might affect grip strength. But It has worked for a lot of other climbers. 

4. Use Chalk on Your Feet

Chalk is very commonly used by climbers to absorb moisture from their hands, so it only makes sense to use it for your feet too. It might feel a little weird initially, but you will get used to it. The insides of your shoes can get a little messy, but it can be washed easily. 

5. Don’t Put Your Climbing Shoes at the Bottom of Your Bag

If you put the climbing shoes right in the bag’s bottom, you are practically inviting the bacteria to have a party inside your shoes. This is because the moisture in the climbing shoes will have no space to air out and so the bacteria will grow in the shoes. And thus, leading to the foul smell of moldy cheese. You should hang your climbing shoes outside the bag so that it gets air and you can stop the bacteria from growing. 


There might be some methods that we mentioned that you might find weird. You don’t have to try them all. If you think that some methods might work perfectly then go for it. As we mentioned earlier, the methods that work like magic are putting detergent in your shoes and submerging them in lukewarm water, fish pedicure, and boot bananas. If you can’t find boot bananas then try activated charcoal shoe inserts as they are a great substitute. 

No matter what method you try, you should always wash your feet regularly to maintain good hygiene. 

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